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Soil Moisture Monitoring
3 March 2022
2022 Issue 1
In this edition:

The soil moisture monitoring project, with the use of underground probes, provides real-time soil water content data to Victoria’s farmers.
Monitoring sites have been set up in cropping regions throughout the state by Agriculture Victoria.

The sites record soil water content at one source point from 30 centimetres down to one metre as a reference point for a paddock.

Sites monitored include: Werrimul, Ouyen, Speed, Kerang, Birchip, Normanville, Lah, Bangerang, Taylors Lake, Coonooer Bridge, Raywood, Elmore, Youanmite, Hamilton, Lake Bolac, Tatyoon, and Sale.
Locations of Agriculture Victoria soil moisture monitoring sites

To access information provided in the graphs, log onto the new Agriculture Victoria soil moisture monitoring dashboard.

No login or passwords are required, and speedos are automatically updated.

Victorian rainfall deciles for November. Wimmera and Mallee received average to patches of above average rainfall in November.  The eastern side of Victoria was above average.

Figure 1: November rainfall deciles for Victoria

Decile 8 - 9 rainfall for parts of the Wimmera and Mallee but the West Wimmera and south of Swan Hill were average.

The majority of North Central Victoria had a soft finish with cool and above average rainfall that resulted in high yielding crops, yet retaining a good portion of deep soil moisture reserves.

Districts with decile ten had rainfall totals to initiate an early build-up of soil moisture profiles for the 2022 cropping season.  Gippsland cropping areas were wetter at decile 8 to 10 for the month.

Victoria rainfall deciles for January.

Figure 2: Rainfall deciles for January

The western border of the Mallee (from north to south) recorded ‘average’ rainfall for January (decile 6 in Murrayville and Kaniva), which increases to ‘above average’ moving to the east (decile 8 in Werrimull and Walpeup).

The far north and north (Mildura and Ouyen) received ‘very much above average’ rainfall (decile 10) for January.

Southern Mallee - Hopetoun and Birchip have recorded ‘average’ rainfall The North Central recorded ‘very much above average’ (decile 9 - 10) rainfall for January in the west of the catchment (Swan Hill and St Arnaud) and reduces to ‘above average’ (deciles 8 - 9) as weather systems move east to Echuca and Bendigo.

Cropping districts with decile 10 for January have had opportunities to build soil moisture profiles.

Rainfall deciles for February

Figure 3. February rainfall deciles for Victoria

‘Average’ to ‘below average’ rainfall during February in Victorian cropping regions with some districts as dry as a decile 1.®ion=vc&year=2021&month=11&day=21

Rainfall for Victoria with recent totals from storms on 28 February and 1 March. Varying rainfall totals and thunderstorm activity with highest totals around Wodonga, Ouyen, Horsham and Kerang and amazingly some areas with no rain in between those districts showing the random nature of the storm.

Figure 4. Most recent rainfall (February 28 and March 1) - impacts not recorded in this report

Varying rainfall totals and thunderstorm activity with highest totals around Wodonga, Ouyen, Horsham and Kerang and amazingly some areas with no rain in between those districts showing the random nature of the storms.

Live updates to soil moisture conditions can be viewed on the SMM dashboard.



Speedo assessments

Soil moisture measurements collected by Agriculture Victoria in the past four months show there have been some opportunities to build a soil moisture profile since late spring.  This has been in the months of November and January with storm cells impacting different parts of the state. 

December and February were dry.  Deep moisture increases in the past four months have ranged from 10 - 40 per cent across the state.

There is still a range of low to low/moderate soil moisture conditions in the Mallee and patches of the Wimmera. Soil moisture probe data shows that generally the soft finish last spring did not deplete all the moisture reserves in the profile.

Spring rainfall was a major contributor to yield and residual moisture from 2021 still exists in varying volumes deep in the profile.

Central Victoria and North East Victoria have moderate soil moisture conditions and patches that are wetter. History shows that a month of decile 8 - 10 rainfall in summer will be enough for some positive improvements.

Districts with two months’ of 8 - 10 decile rainfall in the past four months with good weed control will have profiles well set up for the 2022 cropping season. Further rain in March should raise confidence and provide opportunities for a range of crop rotation options.

Note - Some soil moisture monitoring speedos below have been temperature adjusted to better reflect the current moisture conditions.


Soil moisture speedos 28 February 2022

Note -  use to monitor the changes to the sites relevant to you inbetween the next reporting period and following rain events

Ag Vic SMM network site percentages. Werrimull 48%, Normanville 42%, Speed 68%, Ouyen 43%, Brim 32%, Sheep Hills 55%, Taylors Lake 40%.
Speedo soil moisture graphs
Werrimull soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Werrimull Speedo, moisture currently 48%
Werrimull stacked soil moisture graph.

Werrimull stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/2022 view
Low biomass wheat in 2021 and a soft finish left some moisture in the profile. November rain infiltrated down to 40 centimetres. January rain moved down to 50 centimetres for an overall increase of 15 per cent in total deep moisture.

Ouyen soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Ouyen soil moisture is currently 44 per cent.
Ouyen individual soil moisture traces. Moisture has moved down to 60 cm.

Ouyen stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/22 view

October rainfall was enough to meet crop demands for grain fill last spring. Low to moderate residual moisture still exists at many depths. Rainfall in late January was enough to infiltrate down to 60 centimetres. There has been a 20 per cent deep moisture increase in the past four months.

Speed soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Speed speedo showing 63%

Rainfall in early November paused deep moisture depletion last spring as the crop obtained the freely available water from the top horizon for grain fill. This left half the deep moisture available for the 2022 crop. There has been a 15 per cent moisture increase to the residual moisture in the past four months.

Normanville soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Normanville speedo moisture currently 45%
Shallow soil moisture changes/improvements down to 30cm.

Normanville stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/22 view

Some residual moisture has been left at depth after the vetch hay crop was cut in late September, effectively stopping plant water use.  Rain at the end of January has improved the moisture profile by 10 per cent with moisture wetting down to 30 centimetres.

Brim soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Brim speedo moisture currently 35%

The vetch crop was cut for hay in September last year, but paddock conditions were dry.  Rainfall was beneficial in late November to add to soil moisture, but there have been no changes over the summer period.

Sheep Hills soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Sheep Hills speedo 55 per cent.
Sheep Hill stacked individual sensors that used moisture at deep depths during late October.

Sheep Hills stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/22 view

November rain was beneficial for late pod fill in canola and conserved some deep soil moisture for this season’s crop. There have been two periods where moisture infiltration has been observed with the moisture probe after rain events in late November and late January.

Taylors Lake soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Taylors Lake speedo soil moisture currently 42%

There have been some small increases to soil moisture during the past four months. Please follow the link to the soil moisture monitoring dashboard to obtain the most recent changes with the 1 March rain event in the Wimmera.

North Central
Coonooer Bridge soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Coonooer Bridge soil moisture speedo at 65%.
Coonooer Bridge stacked soil moisture graph.

Coonooer Bridge stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/22 view

Moisture has moved down to 60 centimetres in the past four months and there has been an overall increase of 38 per cent moisture.  This was confirmed with a soil core validation in mid-February (see image below).

Elmore soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Elmore soil moisture speedo is 55 per cent.

Canola was windrowed on 9 November, ceasing crop water use and permitting infiltration of moisture with later rain events in the month.  Like many central Victorian sites, decile 8 - 10 rainfall in January contributed to building the bank of soil moisture. There has been a 35 per cent moisture increase in the past four months, setting the district up with high cropping confidence this season.

North East
Youanmite soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Youanmite speedo moisture currently 70%
Youanmite individual sensor soil moisture graph has had soil moisture increases at 30 - 70 centimetres.

Youanmite stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021/22 view

Rain on 12 November 2021 (which was predominately located in North East Victoria) provided the moisture for successful grain fill of the wheat. This conserved deep soil moisture for this season’s crop. Decile 10 rainfall for January has banked additional deep soil moisture.  There has been a 25 - 30 per cent moisture increase in the past four months. Areas in North East Victoria with highest January rainfall on record are fully wet in the lower areas of the paddocks.

Gippsland cropping
Gippsland (Giffard West) soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Gippsland speedo moisture currently 50 per cent

The Giffard West site was drying down in January and early February with crop regrowth after spending half of 2021 in a saturated state. Waterlogging impacted crop performance and harvesting logistics. While the majority of the state was below average rainfall during February, Gippsland was average and this has created some small moisture increases.

South West
Lake Bolac SMM (30 - 100 cm)
Lk Bolac soil moisture levels at 12 per cent

The long season wheat crop used a surprising amount of soil water late in the season during November and December last year but this contributed to a high yield. This left the soil dry. There have been some small moisture increases during January.


Hamilton soil moisture (30 - 100 cm)
Hamilton soil moisture speedo 90%
Hamilton stacked individual sensor graph. Moisture changes down to 100 cm.

Soil water increases during the past four months equal 40 per cent and as repeated numerous times through this report, this was a combination of November and January rain events.  November contributed to pod fill with the long-season canola and conserved deep soil moisture and January rain provided deep infiltration.


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